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Myra Melford: Snowy Egret

Hrayr Attarian By

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Restlessly innovative pianist and composer Myra Melford brings her exploratory approach and her adventurous melodic sense to her 2015 release Snowy Egret with her new ensemble of the same name. The inspiration for this intriguing album is Uruguayan author Eduardo Galleano's Memory of Fire trilogy. Originally part of a multimedia performance called the "Language of Dreams" the music, full of provocative harmonic ideas and a cinematic ambience, plays as a soundtrack of an art film.

The haunting and wistful "The Virgin of Guadalupe" for instance opens with trumpeter Ron Miles' unaccompanied soaring cornet. Miles constructs a poetic song over Melford's cascading notes and drummer Tyshawn Sorey's martial, exacting beats. Guitarist Liberty Ellman's Spanish tinged, mellifluous monologue is tempered by the band's delightfully dissonant exchanges.

Melford blends together Latin-esque lyricism with the blues and a stimulatingly free improvisational style. On "Ching, Ching/For the Love of Fruit" for instance her plaintiff melodica engages Miles' horn in a lilting duet. Bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi and Sorey create a mystical backdrop for this soulful dialogue. Ellman and Sorey bring a rock & roll vibe to the second part of the tune.

Elsewhere on "The Kitchen" Melford abandons herself to thrilling and angular unfettered flights of fancy. Sorey opens with his thundering polyrhythms over which, passionate group refrains expand. Miles' free flowing, spontaneous phrases complement Takeishi's deep pensive reverberations. Flamenco tinged fragments pepper Melford's percussive solo with its circular, mordent chords and inventive lines.

A viscerally moving and bluesy mood marks "Little Pockets / Everyone Pays Taxes." Miles and Ellman contribute refreshingly atonal and intricately crafted extemporizations over the band's percolating flourishes. This contrast between the piece's cyclical structure and its contemplative and engagingly discordant content is what makes both this track and the album intellectually captivating as well as sensuously satisfying.

Always the bold artist Melford "scores" again with her new quintet. Even without the dance and spoken word segments that originally accompanied its content, the record stands as testament of her ingenuity and is a superlative work in its own right.

Track Listing: Language; Night of Sorrow; Promised Land; Ching Ching/For Love of Fruit; The Kitchen; Times of Sleep and Fate; Little Pockets/Everybody Pays Taxes; First Protest; The Virgin of Guadalupe; The Strawberry.

Personnel: Liberty Ellman: guitar; Ron Miles: trumpet; Stomu Takeishi: acoustic bass guitar; Tyshawn Sorey: drums; Myra Melford: piano, harmonium.

Title: Snowy Egret | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Enja Records

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